Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott isn’t someone who usually expresses his opinions but during his Friday press conference at Bristol Motor Speedway, the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion had some thoughts on NASCAR’s scheduling and his preference for not going up against the NFL on Sunday afternoons.

Along with avoiding the NFL, Elliott suggested more night races during the summer in order to save fans from roasting in the heat for over four hours.

“There are a lot of Sunday afternoons that we spend in some really hot environments,” Elliott said. “Which is fine, I’m good with that. But if I was a fan sitting in the bleachers, I wouldn’t be. For three-and-a-half hours in August, I would much rather do it at night and enjoy a night race, which number one, I think is really cool. The environment is really neat. [Bristol] is the best race of the year; here under the lights.

“I also understand that it’s cool because we don’t do it much but I just think you see a lot of short tracks in places that run Saturday night shows and I think during the summer months, it’s something we should consider doing more of. That’s my opinion, but again, I don’t get asked. I don’t want to get asked and I don’t want that role. Just my humble opinion and that’s really about it.”

Elliott continued with his belief about avoiding the NFL season.

“36, 45, 50 [races], I don’t think it matters how many races we have but I don’t see any reason in competing against NFL football when that starts. In my opinion, that’s not a battle we’re ever going to win. I think we should be smart about that.”

Elliott’s intentions are noble. I agree that being a spectator for a summer race in the middle of the day is rough. I’ve done it a bunch of times and it’s not pleasant. I also agree that scheduling races during the NFL season isn’t ideal because people will choose to watch football instead of NASCAR. And that’s not great when the NASCAR Playoffs are taking place during the NFL season.

That being said, if NASCAR does what Elliott wants them to do, viewership will likely decrease if you go off of NASCAR’s research and past history.

According to NASCAR SVP of Media and Productions Brian Herbst, viewership is 25% higher when a race is scheduled for Sunday afternoon instead of Saturday night. That’s the reason why there are fewer Saturday night races than in years past. And if you’re scheduling a Saturday night race just to avoid the NFL, you’re still going to go up against college football.

In terms of avoiding the NFL, the only way this can be done is to have midweek races. NASCAR can’t start the season earlier because that would mean running into the Super Bowl and they aren’t going to have fewer races because fewer races equals less TV money coming in from NBC and Fox. So that means having 36 races in 29 weeks if NASCAR wants to avoid the NFL.

Out of necessity, NASCAR had to have midweek races in 2020 in order to make up from the time lost during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. NASCAR had four COVID scheduled midweek races in 2020 and if you compare those races to Sunday afternoon races that were also on cable and went against the NFL, you’ll see that NASCAR is still better off going against the NFL.

(All info from Showbuzz Daily)

Wednesday May 20, Darlington, 2.087 million on FS1
Thursday May 28, Charlotte, 1.508 million on FS1
Wednesday June 10, Martinsville, 1.711 million on FS1
Thursday July 23, Kansas, 1.470 million on NBCSN

Sunday September 27, 2020, Las Vegas, 1.970 million on NBCSN
Sunday September 22, 2022, Kansas, 1.878 million on USA

You have to consider, those first three races took place when there was literally no sports competition on TV and most of the country was in lockdown. NASCAR was one of the very few sports operating at that time and two out of those three races did much worse compared to races on cable taking place against the NFL. If there was any hope for midweek races to become the norm, that 2020 season destroyed the idea.

NASCAR could always sacrifice some viewership in order to make the raceday experience more comfortable for those who are there. But when there’s so much TV money coming in and tracks get 65% of that TV money, ticket revenue winds up not being as important for tracks that they’re willing to maximize TV viewership. Even if that means some fans not attending because it’s too hot.

With NASCAR set to enter negotiations for their next TV deal, they are going to do whatever they can to maximize viewership at least until the contract is signed. The tracks, teams, and NASCAR itself stands to benefit from TV money so while it might not be ideal, NASCAR is better off doing what they’re currently doing.


About Phillip Bupp

News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing, highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

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